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The Odd Physics of Rey’s Backflip in Star Wars: Episode IX

The vertical acceleration. On Earth, this is -9.8 m/s2. The distance scale. How many pixels of video in one meter of distance? The time scale. What is the length of time for each frame? If you know two of these three things, you can find the third. Here you can see there is a problem. I'm pretty sure I can get a distance scale by using the height of Rey (or the size of the TIE fighter). But what about the other two? It seems I should stay away from…

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How to Show That the Earth Orbits the Sun

One of my favorite classes to teach is Physics for Elementary Education. It's a physics class designed to address the needs of future elementary school teachers—grades 1 through 6 or so. To guide the class, I've been using a version of Next Gen Physical Science and Everyday Thinking for a long time, maybe 13 years or so, and it is super awesome. One of the major goals in this course is to help students understand the nature of science—in particular the idea that science is all about building and testing…

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Something’s Off With the Turbolaser Shots in The Last Jedi

I have a problem: I can't stop analyzing Star Wars movies. On top of that, there is another issue. I've stated that the physics of a movie doesn't have to be absolutely correct—and I still believe that. And now, I am going to complain about some physics in Star Wars: The Last Jedi even though I said you shouldn't. But first, let me give you a couple of examples of bad physics that doesn't bother me. Consider an x-wing fighter flying near the Death Star. When the x-wing makes a…

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Figure Out Where You Are With Nothing But a Watch and Protractor

In a recent episode of MacGyver, Angus (yes, that's his first name) finds his location in the desert using only a string, a protractor, and a watch. Is this actually possible? Basically, yes. (At least that's what I told the show-runners as the technical consultant for the show.) But you can do this, too. So now, for your super basic introduction to navigating the world. And don't worry—this won't be a full blown semester course on navigation, it's just the basics. Longitude If you want to find out where you…

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